In the waning hours of 2012, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Vice President Joe Biden negotiated a nine-month extension of the Farm Bill. The extension, which was attached to the fiscal cliff legislation passed by Congress on January 1, slashes investment in the future of family farms, ranches and rural small towns.
Many smaller, targeted programs that invest in proven strategies to create rural jobs and revitalize rural communities as well as initiatives to foster a new generation of family farmers and ranchers were completely left out of the final farm bill extension. The eleventh hour deal also prevents farmers and ranchers from improving soil and water conservation through enrollment in the Conservation Stewardship Program in 2013.
Senate Agriculture Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and House Agriculture Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) negotiated an agreement over the final weekend of 2012 that addressed many of the most crucial shortcomings in the extension. Unfortunately, their efforts were set aside in final negotiations over the fiscal cliff bill.
The message is clear - despite high market prices, virtually unlimited commodity and crop insurance premium subsidies to mega-farms remain uncapped and untouchable, but beginning farmers and rural communities are left twisting in the wind. And conservation of precious land and water gets put on hold. Writing a new farm bill that invests in the future of family farmers, ranchers and rural communities will be a long row to hoe. But America, rural America in particular, deserves nothing less.
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